Boulder River fly fishing picks up as peak runoff flows slowly start to subside in mid-June. High flows make wading difficult as there is very little public access to the lower river and the current can be treacherous in the upper reaches. Skilled oarsmen look to the Boulder River for whitewater adventures during early June, turning their attention to trout fishing later in the month.
The pocket water character of this Montana freestone yields myriad holding lies for the wild trout of the Boulder River. Quick, accurate casts into the soft water behind boulders and along ledges will result in aggressive strikes. However, the current moves quickly, and these “windows” are oftentimes less than a couple of feet in size.
Floating and fly fishing the Boulder River as flows begin to level out in late June is a unique, Montana fly-fishing experience for anglers with intermediate to advanced fly-fishing skills.
Salmonflies and Golden Stones emerge in late June, along with Yellow Sallies, Caddis, and PMD mayflies. There is a diverse insect population in the Boulder River and a variety of “attractor patterns” are effective.
Anglers fishing the Boulder River generally find success with a wide range of dry flies in June, rather than by focusing on “matching the hatch.” Light angling pressure and an abundance of cover make the Boulder River trout opportunistic feeders.
Wade downstream the East Boulder while streamer fly fishing across and downstream with light-colored articulated streamers. There is limited public access upstream from the confluence with the main Boulder and it can be worth focusing your efforts at this confluence when water levels are high. Be sure to look closely as conditions change each year and stay below the high water mark at all times.
High water conditions continue to be the theme of fly fishing Montana on the Boulder River in June. As flows begin to drop in mid-June, the floating angler has the advantage as stream access is difficult for the wade fisherman.
Dry-dropper fly fishing setups are standard while floating the Boulder River near Big Timber. Chubby Chernobyl and large stonefly dry flies followed with a weighted attractor nymph on a 2-3’ length of 3X tippet will suffice in these conditions. Nymphing while wading along drop-offs and river bend seams is very productive, but the best areas are difficult to fish in the high water.
Streamer fly fishing the Boulder River in high water can be an exhilarating and frustrating experience for skilled anglers. The best holding water is the soft water behind mid-river boulders but it is very challenging to cover while floating in high water. However, there is no shortage of viable spots and the experienced angler will invariably connect with a few nice trout, even on the most difficult days.
With over two decades of experience outfitting Montana fly fishing trips on the Boulder River, our Bozeman fly fishing guides begin to pay close attention to the river as flows approach 1500 CFS. Even then we find that most anglers struggle to hit the right water as the current is fast and it’s difficult to aid the angler by slowing the raft.
Skilled anglers enjoy the challenge of fly fishing the Boulder River in these conditions and the scenery is spectacular at this time of the year. We have found that the best fly fishing in Montana on the Boulder River is when the flows are between 900 and 1500 CFS (typically in early July).
There is typically a very short window when conditions are ideal and our guides are selective in terms of who they recommend for a Boulder River day trip. Ideally, our guests will have intermediate to advanced fly fishing skills to take full advantage of the Montana angling opportunities on this river. We use rafts and some of the launching and take-out sites require considerable effort, so guests should have a high degree of mobility.
Finally, the Boulder River is named so because of the never-ending string of boulders that line the river bottom. Safely navigating these hazards is a challenge and anglers fishing the Boulder River while floating need to be in good physical condition to assist with unexpected obstructions in the river and short portages.
Reservations for Boulder River fishing trips can be secured online, via e-mail, or by calling our experts at 406-468-5019. Timing is crucial for angling success on the Boulder River, so be flexible with your plans and rely on our 23+ years of experience to determine if a Boulder River fishing trip is a good choice for your Montana fly fishing tour.
Once the river flow drops below 700 CFS, the river becomes best suited for the wading angler and our guides turn their attention to other Montana fly fishing rivers near Bozeman.